More with less! – Ecodesign is the art of doing more with less. It not only includes energy-efficient and recycling-friendly products, but also considers the entire life cycle of a product. All phases are taken into account, starting with the extraction of raw materials, through production, distribution and use to recycling and disposal. An expanded design philosophy aims to use fewer materials and energies while at the same time generating greater benefits. It also addresses issues of user behavior, repairability, and longevity.
A fundamental transformation of the entire economic system towards sustainability (decarbonization & circular economy) and justice is urgently needed. This requires changed, interdisciplinary development processes, as innovations are needed to keep the world habitable despite climate change. It’s about using fewer raw materials and energies.
However, ecodesign is not only geared towards products, but also system-oriented. It focuses on procedures and processes, not just on the objects themselves. Design not only creates material artefacts, but also fulfills communicative and identity-forming functions. It shapes both our individual and our collective everyday culture.
It is important to recognize the economic and ecological potential of ecodesign, to acquire skills and to apply them to concrete examples. The design process requires technical skill and aesthetic sensitivity, but also systemic and structural thinking – the ability to view products systemically and to consider the impact on the environment and society at an early stage.
Taking the environment into account is becoming increasingly important in product development and design. Industry’s product strategies play a crucial role in overcoming the ecological crisis. Taking environmental aspects into account in product development can become an important driver for innovations, helping to save costs and gain competitive advantages.
The learning modules include methods, procedures and tools of EcoDesign. They include not only tools for ecological analysis, but also tools for costing and creativity techniques.
Longevity is a question of material and construction – but also a question of aesthetics. Good design that is functional and user-friendly also takes sustainability and ecology into account. Ecodesign enables products to last longer.
Service instead of product
Ecodesign is not only about the design of material goods, but it is also about the environmentally sound and user-friendly design of services and systems. Products and service processes are planned, designed, produced and implemented. In the process, resources are consumed, waste and pollutants are created that burden the environment and health.
Life Cycle Philosophy
Ecodesign in the early days had the goal of avoiding waste and pollutants during production and thus minimizing material and energy consumption. Today’s ecodesign strategies aim to eliminate adverse environmental impacts throughout the entire product life cycle of a product – from raw material extraction, production and distribution, use and reuse/recycling or disposal.
Utility value and symbol function
Sociological and design-scientific findings have shown that a purely technical view of products and services does not go far enough. Social, aesthetic and symbolic functions of design usually have a more significant impact on human consumer behaviour and the useful life of products than the pure product utility value.
Life cycle assessments
Principles and rules for the evaluation of life cycle assessments of products can be found in the ISO standards 14040:2006 and 14044:2006 and (DIN EN ISO 14040, DIN EN ISO 14044). According to these standards, a life cycle assessment comprises four elements: Definition of objectives, life cycle inventories, impact assessments and the evaluations.
- Preparation of life cycle assessments (LCA). Analysis and evaluation of the ecological effects during the entire product life cycle, the material and energy turnover and the resulting environmental impact.
- Product Carbon Footprint of products and operating sites. An internationally binding ISO standard (ISO 14067) and an internationally harmonized guideline are currently being developed.
- Water Footprint. An internationally binding ISO standard on the Water Footprint (ISO 14046) is currently being drafted.
Product development is increasingly caught in a field of tension between technical, economic and ecological requirements. The strategic coupling of ecological aspects with traditional development goals is essential:
- a sound understanding of the environmental impact of products
- Development of environmentally and market-oriented products
- ecological valuation methods
- conceptual/constructive measures for ecological optimisation
- Interaction of technical and economic requirements
- Combination of market and environmental requirements
- Exploitation of environmental and market potentials
- Learning to develop innovative products
- Optimization of environmentally friendly products
The aim of ecodesign is to design products, services and systems in such a way that their overall environmental impact is reduced at all life stages. Life cycle thinking plays a fundamental role in this, as does the emphasis on longevity (including aesthetic longevity), careful use of resources and the avoidance of pollutants and waste.
Ecodesign not only strives for material and technical relief for the environment, but also aims to find new answers to individual values, life plans and cultural practices. The design process takes into account a variety of aspects, including technical, aesthetic, economic, social and environmental aspects. With its sustainable design approach, ecodesign thinks ahead about social, economic and ecological consequences. It strives to minimize environmental impact and consider the societal impact of tangible or intangible designs.